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Video: White House report recommends Minnesota take 'additional measures' to control spread of COVID-19

Nov 05, 2020 05:19AM ● By Editor

Watch the KSTP-TV Report here

Image: KSTP-TV

By Alex Jokich of KSTP-TV Eyewitness News - November 4, 2020

A new White House report recommends Minnesota take "additional measures" to help control a statewide outbreak of COVID-19.

ABC News obtained the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing for Nov. 1. The briefings are shared weekly with governors but are not publicized. They include a state-by-state breakdown of COVID-19 spread and recommendations for state leaders on how to handle it.

The first line of the summary for Minnesota reads, "Minnesota has seen an unrelenting rise in cases and test positivity over the last two months that will continue to lead to increased hospitalizations and deaths; a pivot to a more comprehensive mitigation strategy is needed."

The report ranks Minnesota as the 13th worst state in the country when it comes to the number of new COVID-19 cases. It puts the state in the "red zone" for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported a record number of new cases Wednesday, with 3,844 new positive tests and a statewide positivity rate of 9.2%.

The White House report goes on to say there is a "limited window to prevent further increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths."

"It's unfortunate but it's not surprising," said KSTP health expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou.

Dr. Georgiou said it is important for Minnesotans to know the surge in hospitalizations the state is seeing now is worse than it was during its first peak in the spring.

"When I look back at the hospitalizations in the spring, our highest day of new hospitalizations was about 85 in the third week of May. Our hospitalizations now are about 135," Dr. Georgiou said. "It is about 60% greater than the peak we had back in the spring when we thought things were really bad. So this isn't just another peak, this is a peak that's worse than the last peak."

The 'recommendations' section of the task force report reads: "At this point, the rapid increase in cases and test positivity throughout the state indicates that additional measures should be taken in addition to expeditious upward adjustment of mitigation to avoid falling behind the rapid spread. Additional measures should include communications to reinforce messaging around social gatherings and a new asymptomatic surveillance approach...  Given the trajectory of disease activity, efforts to be keep less intense mitigation levels are unlikely to succeed."

The report also addresses social gatherings in Minnesota: "Community spread continues at social and family gatherings where observance of social distancing and mask wearing is not followed due to people assuming that "healthy" family members and friends are not infected with COVID since they do not have symptoms. Highly infectious asymptomatic COVID individuals then cause ongoing transmission, frequently infecting multiple people in a single gathering. Increase efforts to address these venues through communication and pivot to surveillance for asymptomatic infections. In red and orange counties, both public and private gatherings should be as small as possible and optimally, not extend beyond the immediate family. Maintaining or increasing restrictions on indoor gathering sizes will help limit the superspreader events that appear to be critical to rapid epidemic spread."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to respond to the report. She provided this statement:

"We have been clear in recent days and weeks, Minnesota is headed into a difficult period. The virus is spreading across the state and we've seen some clear indications of the most significant drivers of the spread. It's often younger people and it's often happening in bars and restaurants, smaller social gatherings, and celebrations like weddings. We have and will continue to look at ways we can minimize the potential for spread through official actions, but it's important to recognize official actions will never eliminate all risk. Every Minnesotan has a role to play. We know what can work: find new, safer ways to keep alive those social connections for a few more months until we have vaccines widely available. Video chat instead of visit your parents or grandparents. Go for a socially distanced walk instead of sitting in the house and catching up. As always, wear a mask, keep some distance from others, avoid crowds -- and get tested, there's no need to wait."

To see the original report and related stories, follow this link to the KSTP-TV website.